And now there’s a high-performance A4 again, once more called S4, which costs from £36 000 (about R520 000). An RS4 will follow but for now the S4 is a perfect lesson in intelligent downsizing, the process on which the car industry’s future partly depends. There are two strands to this, of which the S4 is one. The other, reducing structural weight, is more difficult.
The S4’s downsizing concerns its engine. Forced induction and direct injection are the way ahead for petrol engines so the new S4 has a three-litre V6 with a supercharger. It’s sound is crisp and potent – much like that of the Porsche Cayman. And the boost from the supercharger is so immediate and progressive that it feels more like a plain fuel-injected engine with unusually vigorous pulling power.
Then there’s the really good bit. This new engine has a tiny bit less power than the old V8 (333 against 344bhp) yet accelerates the car more vigorously, thanks mainly to a transmission (six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG) that soaks up less of that power. Even better, it produces a lot less CO2: its official 225g/km scoretakes it just below the gas-guzzler threshhold and is 94g/km less than the previous S4.